If Joe Bidenís poll numbers get any worse, heíll be Donald Trump. A new Washington Post/ABC News poll finds that Mr. Biden approval rating has plunged to a record low for him of 41% approval in this poll. He has 55% disapproval on handling the economy, and his approval for dealing with the Covid pandemic has dropped to 47% from 64% in April. In addition, 51% say he isnít keeping his campaign promises, 59% are concerned he will increase the size of government, and a plurality of 45% say he has accomplished little or nothing during his presidency.
Many presidents experience opinion slides in their first year, after the traditional spirit of unity around the inauguration fades and the realities of governance settle in. Mr. Bidenís numbers were durable at first. According to the FiveThirtyEight average of polls, Mr. Bidenís approval on July 26 was still within a fraction of where he started. Disapproval had crept up from the low thirties to the low forties, cutting his net margin to +10 from +17, but overall he was racking up respectable numbers.
Then came August. The ďseasonalĒ migrant crisis did not abate as promised, Covid infection rates surged, and the administration not only surrendered in Afghanistan but fumbled the surrender. By the end of the month, Mr. Bidenís net approval margin had vanished. Some analysts thought that this slump would be temporary and that the numbers would bounce back after the sting of the Afghan fiasco faded.
Yet approval numbers kept trending down, disapproval mounted, and by Labor Day the president was underwater. In October blame shifted to Congressional Democrats dithering on the presidentís legislative agenda, which was stalled by intra-party squabbling. A dismal election day arrived like a fire bell in the night, and the House leadership rushed through the infrastructure bill with the belief this ďwinĒ would stem the tide of popular disapproval. However, polling since then has not brought signs of a snapback.
According to Gallup and FiveThirtyEight, Mr. Bidenís approval is lower at this point in his presidency than every president since Harry Truman, except for Mr. Trump. Mr. Biden, though, is closing in on his predecessor. Mr. Trumpís numbers had fallen quickly but stabilized over the summer of 2017 and were slightly improving by this point. Mr. Bidenís numbers are still dropping. On day 120 of their respective presidencies the Biden/Trump approval gap was 14 points; now it is 4.6. A similar trend is evident with disapproval ó four years ago, Mr. Trumpís numbers were starting to improve, while Mr. Bidenís are getting worse.
Objective indicators also augur poorly for Mr. Biden. The latest USA Today/Suffolk poll shows 66% believing the country is on the wrong track. Four years ago, this number in the same poll was 58% ó not great but better than today. Americans had an upbeat economic outlook in November 2017. Now 70% rate the economy negatively. Inflation is up, confidence is down, and Mr., Biden lacks a plan to fix either. Recall too that Mr. Trump was hobbled by the false Russian collusion story, while Mr. Biden enjoys relative support from the press. So while Mr. Trumpís negatives were foisted on him, Mr. Biden is earning his.
The worst headline the Biden White House could see is that his average approval ratings have slipped below Mr. Trumpís. However the numbers are heading in that direction, with bad portents for Democrats in the Congressional midterms and the 2024 race. A Harvard/Harris poll from late October showed Messrs. Trump and Biden neck and neck in approval, and an Emerson college poll showed Mr. Trump beating Mr. Biden in a squeaker if the election were held today.
It might be that Mr. Biden wonít even be a candidate in 2024. The USA Today/Suffolk poll found 64% of Americanseven ó including over a quarter of Democrats ó donít want Mr. Biden to run for a second term. Yet as bad as things are for Mr. Biden, at least he isnít Kamala Harris. Last week in the same poll, the hapless Ms. Harris set a vice presidential record with a scant 28% approval rating. Four points lower and she will be where Gallup says Richard Nixon was when he resigned.
Image: President Biden at this desk. White House photo.